Facebook Ads vs Google Ads

Last updated


Daniel Wade


July 28, 2022

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Facebook Ads and Google Ads are perceived as adversarial marketing platforms. For the longest time, advertisers have been led to believe by technology media outlets that they have to choose one of the two platforms, and not use both as they are in direct competition with each other.

In truth, such reasoning is misleading to new online advertisers. While Facebook and Google are rival tech companies, businesses stand to benefit a lot more from using both platforms in concert, leveraging the strengths of each to maximize visibility, increase sales and leads, and find new customers.

Many businesses are already seeing remarkable return on their collective advertising investment when they adopt marketing strategies that align with the functionality of each platform. This guide seeks to examine the differences between Facebook Ads and Google Ad-words, analyze the strengths of each platform, and illustrate why you should incorporate both into your digital marketing strategy.


Table of contents

Facebook Ads Vs. Google Ads - What's the Difference?

Before we talk about the strengths and applications of each platform and how you can leverage them for the success of your digital marketing strategy, it is important to learn the key difference between them. The truth is, even though advertisers tend to view them as alternatives of one another, Facebook Ads and Google Ads are inherently different platforms.

Both are immensely powerful, but you shouldn't forget that each option has different advantages and potential applications, and knowing the difference can help you understand how best to leverage them to your business' advantage.

Advertisers looking to maximize their ROI are better off using them in tandem as opposed to picking one platform over the other, because Google markets your business to its vast audience, but Facebook directs customers in your specific niche to you.

Facebook Ads is the most popular paid social platform on the planet. The term "paid social" is coined from the evolution of social media marketing from a complementary source of advertising into an investment-worthy venture. With over 2.7 billion monthly active users (MAUs), Facebook has an unrivaled global presence, and the biggest treasure trove of active social media users on the globe.

However, it is not just an immense global audience that makes Facebook Ads, the new kid on the block, a powerfully unique frontier for online advertising. It allows advertisers to target customers within this vast audience with unparalleled granularity, making it possible for them to gain insight into their audiences' lifestyles at an unprecedented scale.

Google Adwords has some considerable strengths too. Apart from fielding over 3.5 billion search queries daily, making it the de facto leader in search engine queries, the advertising platform continuously improves itself with the aid of Google's proprietary AI and machine learning technology, RankBrain. This AI-based system relates individual web pages to broader concepts, improving the relevance and usefulness of its users' search results.

Google's Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Model

Paid search revolves around keyword targeting. Keywords, or specific phrases and words used in search queries, are the bread and butter of SEO. In this instance, they help Google's search algorithm to pair advertisements and search results according to relevance.

Advertisers first have to bid on keywords to use AdWords as a marketing platform. Winning bids get advertisement slots alongside users' search results for the targeted keywords. When a user clicks on an advertisement, the advertiser is charged, hence the term "pay-per-click advertising".

With AdWords, you're paying for the potential to find customers searching for businesses like yours based on the relevant keywords. Although PPC bidding and optimization are a touch too complex to cover here, PPC is a straightforward mode of advertising, which is why AdWords is the world's most recognized PPC platform.

Facebook Ads

Facebook leads all other social media platforms in the number of monthly active users (MAUs). That makes it a potentially lucrative element of digital marketing that anyone can leverage to their advantage.

It's easy to assume that AdWords and Facebook Ads are similar platforms under different tech brands. In reality, the two have some deep fundamental differences.

AdWords promotes businesses to its vast audience by showing them alongside the relevant search results. Facebook Ads, on the other hand, directs users to products and services that they need based on their online habits and interests.

In a way, you can say that Facebook Ads brings the customers to you, while AdWords promotes your business to a vast audience.

The Strengths of Google Ads

Aside from the obvious fact that Google dominates the web as the most popularly used search engine, Google Ads has a few more strengths that you can leverage for the benefit of your business.

Advertising on Google comes in two flavors: Search network advertising, and Display network advertising. The Google Display Network deals in visual ads (banners, etc.) that are more effective for spreading brand awareness on a large scale (the display network covers approximately 98 percent of the web).

The Search network, which is home to Google's PPC model, is where you can bid on millions of keywords to promote your ads alongside search results.

So, how do you stand to benefit by using Google Ads?

Access to a Vast Global Audience

Every second, Google search receives over 40,000 search queries, which translate to approximately 1.2 trillion web searches every year. The biggest reason why advertisers turn to Google is because it is unrivaled in terms of its immense reach.

Google is also becoming increasingly sophisticated since its integration with RankBrain, a proprietary machine-learning and AI technology that improves search accuracy by relating keywords with broader concepts. That means its reach is only going to increase over time, and so is its potential to promote your business to its ever-growing global audience.

Affordable Advertising

A common misconception with PPC is that you need a large budget to outshine your competitors. In truth, AdWords is more concerned about the relevance and quality of your ads than the size of your advertising budget.

AdWords levels the playing field for companies big and small alike. The goal is to create the most pleasant experience for its users, so no matter how deep your pockets are, low-quality and irrelevant advertisements will not feature on any search results.

Relevance and quality matter above everything else, even your spending limit. Therefore, anyone can have success with Google AdWords irrespective of how much money they invest in advertising.

It takes a smart advertiser to create an ad that AdWords deems high-quality and relevant, but the payoff can be huge. Quality ads rarely have to bid as highly as poorer ads, plus the more engaging your ad is, the more conversions you can expect.

Several Ad Formats to Choose From

AdWords started in 2000 as a digital marketing platform with 350 advertisers who could run rudimentary text-based ads alongside the usual search results served by Google. Although many of the elements in these basic ads were maintained, there's a considerable difference in today's ad formats.

PPC ads are still text-based, at least as far as AdWords is concerned. However, unlike the basic format of 2000, advertisers can utilize a wide range of features to improve their advertisements and make them more compelling.

Today's typical AdWords advertisement may contain social proof (user reviews), links to the business' website(s), high-quality images, and tons of business information, including working hours, location, and customer ratings. It's a far cry from the original ad template.

AdWords places tools and features like ad extensions, sitelinks, and custom ad formats in your hands to suit the specific needs of your business. Not only that, but you can customize and control your advertisements, and go beyond the traditional text-based ad experience by adding rich visuals to make them more compelling.

Google AdWords allows the use of high-resolution images (visual media is the most engaging kind of content on the web) and, because we're decades into the twenty-first century, interactive map data too.

Through continuous refinement, AdWords is now the most powerful PPC advertising platform on the internet. Google is continually making it better by adding new ad formats and features that guarantee that no matter what you sell or who you sell it to, you can create compelling ads and grab your audience's attention.

The Strengths of Facebook Ads

Facebook's advertising solution may have come a few years after AdWords was launched, but this scrappy newcomer is no pushover. Apart from commanding the largest social media audience globally, the pioneer of paid social is constantly improving, and has thus far established itself as a central feature in many business' digital marketing strategies.

Paid social has its perks over the PPC advertising model used by AdWords, but none are as impactful as the granular targeting of its immense audience. We talk about that in depth below.

Targets Audiences with Unrivaled Granularity

Facebook boasts of a massive global audience of over 2.7 billion monthly active users. That's just counting the active accounts-the number is much higher when all inactive and infrequently used accounts are tallied up.

Though there's no rival to Facebook's enormous audience, its true strength lies in its ability to target this audience with unparalleled granularity. Simply put, advertising on Facebook reaches a whole new level because of the amount of customer information that's freely available on the platform. User profiles, likes, and interactions can all be aggregated into metrics that help advertisers figure out their customers' needs, lifestyles, and spending habits.

Plus, Facebook users continually search for and consume content that aligns with their beliefs, ideologies, and values, so advertisers have a unique opportunity to glean information that can help them personalize advertising messages in ways that were previously deemed unimaginable.

When talking about Facebook's ability to take advertising to a granular level, it's only fair to mention "lookalike audiences." This is a powerful application of Facebook Ads that allows advertisers to find audiences that are similar to their existing customers.

By uploading customer information to Facebook, whether it's data from third-party brokers or information collected in a business' databases, advertisers can target new customers with similar consumer behaviors as their existing customers. This potentially doubles the reach of every advertisement, plus it helps businesses that have just started using Facebook Ads to gain an instant audience that's similar to their existing customer base.

Rich Visual Ad Format

The most noticeable disparity between Facebook Ads and Google Ads lies in the ad format. While Google's text-based ads these days employ the use of rich visuals, it pales in comparison to Facebook's strongly visual ad format.

The best Facebook Ads don't just stop at high-resolution images, but rather, they deploy video content and other visual media as well to create the most impactful messages. Good advertisers leverage the powerfully visual nature of Facebook ads; excellent advertisers pair compelling visuals with

aspirational messaging to make ads as persuasive as possible.

Previously, Facebook required ads on its platform to have text that occupied no more than 20 percent of the ad area. Although they have since relaxed that restriction, Facebook ads are still decidedly visuals-first.

The icing on the cake is Facebook's continuous evaluation of its marketing platform and its users' online experience. You can expect progressive advancements in the marketing solution's reach, granular targeting, and visual ad outlays that will improve how businesses attract new customers.

Impressive Return on Investment (ROI)

While the granularity of its targeting ability is sensational, and the inherently visual nature of the platform supports beautiful and engaging ads, newcomers will most likely be impressed by the potential return on investment that comes with advertising on Facebook.

Startups flock to Facebook Ads for its budget-friendly advertising plans. Although your specific budget varies depending on factors such as campaign objectives, scope, and messaging, the platform is still remarkably affordable to use.

When you consider the level of granularity in which you can target your audience, it becomes clear why investing in Facebook Ads can bring a high ROI. That's why Facebook Ads is not just a platform for big brands with unlimited resources; it is the ideal marketing platform for all businesses, regardless of how much or how little you have to invest.

It's Not About Which is Better; It's About How You Use Them

Both Facebook Ads and Google Ads are immensely powerful digital marketing platforms. However, when evaluating their strengths and potential applications, it's important to view them as complementary, not as alternatives of each other.

It's true that they share loads of similarities, but the two platforms are fundamentally different. The way they evolve differently suggests that you should include them both in your digital marketing strategy because they each have a different edge.

If you're curious about how to maximize your Facebook Ads and Google Ad campaigns, one surefire way is to delegate your PPC campaigns to a reliable PPC management company, preferably one with years of experience and skilled personnel that can help you get more leads and increase conversions on every one of your ads.

Facebook Ads vs Google Ads


Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

After working for multiple digital advertising agencies and managing hundreds of client accounts and spending millions of dollars via Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Native Ads and Direct Media Buying, I took things out on my own and started SparrowBoost. Now, my tight-knit team and I continue to get smarter and more efficient at running our own campaigns and we share our knowledge with you.

Learn more about SparrowBoost